Media, PA Military Divorce Attorney Seeks Optimal Results for Service Members and Spouses
Trustworthy advice on Pennsylvania divorce laws for military members
Life in the service can be hard on a marriage. If you or your spouse are a military servicemember and you’ve decided to end your marriage, getting a divorce involves observing certain special requirements. A Media, PA divorce attorney can explain how military law affects your case and can guide you through every step of the process.
Why is a military divorce different from other divorces?
In most divorces, you only have to concern yourself with state law. However, military divorces also involve federal law, such as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The SCRA prohibits a divorce, child custody lawsuit or other civil case from going forward while an active duty servicemember is deployed. The law can also apply to reservists and to recruits who have received orders but not yet reported to active duty or induction. A military spouse suing for divorce must submit an affidavit attesting that the defendant spouse is not currently serving full time in the military. Otherwise, the proceeding will be postponed for 90 days or longer.
If an active-duty servicemember agrees to a divorce, both parties can sign a special waiver affidavit to allow the proceedings to go forward. If the military spouse is the defendant, he or she must be represented by an attorney and must be served with the divorce complaint in person. Special rules also apply to the calculation of alimony and child support and to child custody as it concerns relocation.
How long does military divorce take?
The length of any divorce proceeding depends on the couple’s unique circumstances, but under the SCRA, a military servicemember can request suspension of divorce proceedings for the length of their term of service. The protections of the SCRA generally last until 90 days after the military deployment ends.
What are the rules for equitable distribution?
Pennsylvania applies the rule of equitable distribution in divorce cases, which means courts divide marital property in a manner that is fair, but not necessarily equal. However, the USFSPA governs the division of military benefits, such as:
- Military retirement pay
- Thrift savings plans
- VA disability benefits
- Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits
- Survivor benefit plan
- Tricare healthcare benefits
To ensure you obtain a fair share of these benefits, it is advisable to retain an experienced military divorce attorney.
What is the 10/10 rule and how does it affect military divorce?
The so-called “10-10 Rule” or 10-year rule is a source of confusion for many individual when dealing with a military divorce. The 10-year rule has nothing to do with a state court’s authority to treat military retired pay as a marital asset to be divided upon divorce. Even though it is part of the USFSPA, the 10-Year Rule only affects how the former spouse receives the share of military retired pay to which he or she is entitled pursuant to a divorce.
The first “10” of the 10/10 rule requires a couple to have been married for at least ten years. The second “10” requires the military spouse to have served at least 10 years of service creditable towards retirement during the marriage. If both of these conditions are met, then the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) may directly pay a former spouse his or her share of military retired pay.
If the 10-year rule is not met, then the military spouse must provide the former spouse his or her share directly, which could be done by mailing a check, setting up an allotment or automatic payment, or some similar method.
Essentially, the 10-year rule exists to allow DFAS to avoid administering small divisions of military retired pay. It does not limit or define what share the spouse may receive from the service member’s retirement; it simply establishes when DFAS may pay that share directly to the spouse.
Do you have to live in Pennsylvania to file for military divorce here?
You can file for divorce in Pennsylvania only if you or your spouse has been a resident of the commonwealth for at least six months. However, this time period can be waived for military couples, since servicemembers are frequently redeployed. You should consult a knowledgeable lawyer before filing for divorce in Delaware County, PA.